Warming Red Lentil Curry

Capetonians love planning their calendar around the weather, especially the rain. Personally, I think it’s fantastic. I’m a planner by nature so you definitely won’t have to tell me twice to stay indoors because it’s raining. Any excuse to wrap myself in a warm fluffy blanket, watch Netflix and comfort eat and I’m in. I’ve always loved winter, the thought of wearing my flannel suite (pyjamas), eating my moms’ tomato bredie and binge-watching some old 90’s TV show just brings me such happiness. Comfort food is my favourite food, it brings all the nostalgic feelings of homecooked meals, and all the family bonding that went with it.

Full disclosure; I hated curry, until 2 years ago when I realised that all curries are not created equal. Curry flavours and types are actually based on their origin, English curries are a lot sweeter, while Durban and Indian curries (the type my mom made) are spicier and hot – not at all what I enjoy, but I tip my hat to those who can enjoy it. Kaeli still pokes fun at how low my heat tolerance is, even though I maintain it’s increased substantially, I have been trying to add more chilli to my food because of all the nutritional benefits it has.

One of the most important benefits of chilli for me has been its ability to help fight nasal congestion. Being a long time sufferer of seasonal allergies and hayfever and sinus it’s being an ongoing struggle of hating nasal spray and trying not to become a pill popper, I’ve had to try and combat the problem through various methods, one of them being spicing up my food by adding just a little chilli for some kick. The heat created by chilli stimulates the secretions that aid in clearing mucus from a stuffy nose, it also contains ant-bacterial properties making it perfect to combat sinus infections or even just the flu that seems to be doing the rounds.

This curry is packed with loads of flu-fighting ingredients that will probably diminish any sign of infection. Ginger and lemon are well renowned for their infection-fighting abilities and we’re sure you don’t want to hear us drone on about how incredible lemon actually is, but one ingredient that’s making its own little comeback is turmeric. We’ve already created a Golden Milk recipe that pays tribute to the miracle spice that is turmeric, but adding just a little extra to your foods makes a huge difference. Our warming Red Lentil Curry only calls for a teaspoon but packs just as strong a punch as gulping down that multivitamin. Curcumin (Turmeric) has incredible anti-inflammatory effects and is an exceptional antioxidant, these benefits combined with turmerics microbial abilities make it a flu-fighting, health-promoting powerhouse – make sure to add some black pepper, it helps the body optimally absorb the turmeric into the bloodstream.

When my weeks get busy, and I find myself working till early hours of the morning while still trying to squeeze in a gym session before work in the morning I know I need to feed my body with the right kinds of foods to keep it from failing me when I need it the most. Foods like this Warming Red Lentil Curry are perfect, it’s a one-pot recipe, it’s quick to make and contains all the nutrients my body needs to keep on going and function at it’s best. On many occasions, I’ve made this curry in bulk and portioned it off as lunch for the week and it’s as comforting and delicious the Friday as it was the Monday.

It’s the perfect amount of spicy, and you can add as much spinach as you like to make sure you get those greens in. If I’m making bulk I tend to add 2 large handfuls that get wilted in the curry, and once I’ve portioned my meals off I add an extra handful to each Tupperware. I could live off this meal for the rest of winter it’s that good, and with a storm brewing and rain expected for the next week, I fully plan on planning around the weather and cooking up a giant batch to last the week.

Recipe

Makes enough for 4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup Raw Red Lentils, rinsed
  • 1 Red Pepper, sliced
  • 1 Brown Onion, finely diced
  • 1 Head of Cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 tin Full Fat Coconut Milk
  • 30ml Tomato Paste
  • 1tsp Turmeric
  • 1tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1tsp Cumin
  • 1/4tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Chilli deseeded and finely sliced
  • 5cm knob of Ginger, grated
  • 2 Large Handfuls of Baby Spinach
Instructions
  1. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and your diced brown onions. Sauté until translucent, and slightly brown on the edges, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add your garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add your spices (turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper), at this stage you can also add your tomato paste and sliced chilli, fry for a further minute until all the spices are incorporated and begin to become fragrant.
  3. Add your cauliflower florets and stir continuously to cover the cauliflower in the spices and let soften for 5 minutes. Empty your tin of tomatoes into the saucepan along with your red lentils and simmer for another 5 minutes. Once your tomatoes have begun to reduce, reduce your heat to low-medium, add in your coconut milk and let simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes or until your red lentils have softened.
  4. Remove the lid and add in your sliced red peppers, stir to combine and let them soften for 2-3 minutes, you don’t want them to disintegrate so make sure to keep your eye on them.
  5. Your lentil curry should be nearing completion, you may now add your 2 large handfuls of baby spinach, stir them through the curry and place the lid back on the pot for 2 minutes to let the spinach wilt slightly.
  6. Serve warm, and enjoy!